Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Sophia Incognita" by F. J. Bergmann. Ms. Bergmann writes poetry and speculative fiction, appearing in The 5-2, Black Treacle, North American Review, On Spec, Right Hand Pointing, and elsewhere. She is the editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) sfpoetry.com, and poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change mobiusmagazine.com. Recent awards include the 2012 Rannu Prize for speculative poetry and the 2013 SFPA Elgin chapbook award.
F. J. Bergmann
A higher education is what divides:
the sequin-spangled veil that hides
you from arcane knowledge you possess
without knowing, that unseen guest
lurking under the table spread
with the liberal banquet of arts and dead
languages arranged in silver vases,
reaching up to help himself to cigarette cases
and the odd delicacy. But if the dinner
leaves you hungry, angry, thinner;
starved and dry amid peace and plenty
you’ve proved that the cup is mostly empty.
The worms of doubt rise from the gut again
to eat the fermenting apple of the brain.
Under the sway of post-prandial port
you regurgitate all you were taught;
your lips flap free as flying birds
to la-la lots of lovely words.
The servitors prepare for the next meal
and sharpen up the carving-steel;
polish sapient wood, wash windows, dust
and vacuum-clean the house of lust,
mop up the vomit-puddle of your uncouth
from the damask of concealed truth.
The arcane brocade pattern is blurred;
I think your years have gotten stirred.
Drink yourself underneath the ruined table,
suck out your own blood, if you are able.
The learning curve completes its circle. I’m glad
you’re tainted with hermetic wisdom—mad.
Poet's Notes: This poem stems from a love-hate relationship with academia, and a purely affectionate relationship with general erudition. “Sophia,” of course, is Wisdom—a deceptive goal. With only a BS in psychology (and an excessive amount of superfluous coursework in the hard sciences and fine arts), I have marveled at the puppy-mill-like proliferation of MFA creative writing programs, and how little they often seem to avail their recipients. There is a duality inherent in the amassing of knowledge, particularly “useless” knowledge—that which does not directly advance professional skills or status (although to a poet, “useless knowledge” is an oxymoron, as it should be to any sentient entity).
The accumulation of both data and the myriad methods of processing it has its drawbacks as well as advantages; I have never been certain whether, as Richard Feynman believed, the storage space in one’s brain is finite, or whether, like a magic purse, it expands as needed no matter how much is inserted. In either case, organizing this accumulation becomes proportionately more complex and glitch-ridden—and interesting—as it mushrooms within one’s mind.
Editor's Note: It's about time a poet said something about the "higher" education being sold these days. The rhymes and rhythm here are impeccable--a nice poetic contrast to the "educated" whom the poet mocks. "Sophia Incognita" first appeared in the February 2015 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.